Thursday, January 14, 2010

Deputy Attorney General Wins Prestigious Recognition

A state deputy attorney general has received an award for her contributions to the community.

Colorado attorney general John Suthers congratulated Monica Marquez for receiving the 2009 Richard Marden Davis Award, a prestigious distinction given to an attorney under the age of 40 who has excelled in the legal profession as achieved civic, cultural, educational and charitable distinction.

“Monica is one of the brightest and most civically engaged attorneys working in state government today,” Suthers said. “This award highlights what Monica’s clients and colleagues have known for some time — that she is one of Colorado’s finest public servants.”

Marquez oversees the Department of Law’s State Services Section, which represents the governor’s office, the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, and the state's colleges and universities in addition to other agencies.

She has served a member of the Judicial Nominating Commission for Colorado’s Second Judicial District, as president of the Colorado Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Bar Association, as chairwoman of the Denver Mayor’s GLBT Commission, as a board member of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and as a board member of the Latina Initiative. Marquez received the Colorado GLBT Bar Association’s 2009 Outstanding Attorney Award.

Ritter Praises "Green" Stimulus Infusion

Gov. Bill Ritter today announced that $3.6 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be used to help train disadvantaged Denver residents to enter the green building industry.

The federal money will allow Mi Casa Resource Center for Women Inc. will partner with other organizations to serve 500 people, targeting the unemployed, minorities and women.

“The Recovery Act is helping to prepare our workforce for the jobs of the future, including green jobs that will be in demand in the New Energy Economy,” Gov. Ritter said. “Training programs like the one funded today will help some of our neediest citizens access stable career opportunities.”

The grant was awarded through a competitive process by the U.S. Department of Labor through a program called Pathways Out of Poverty. The Mi Casa grant was among 38 announced today for a total of $150 million.

Projects will be implemented at the community level with a focus on helping people living below the poverty line. The programs are designed to help people gain the skills necessary to find work in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Mi Casa Resource Center will partner with Charity House, iCAST, Denver Institute of Urban Studies, American Pathways University and the Denver Office of Economic Development.

The participants will receive support and referral services and education and training in energy efficient building construction and retrofits, renewable electrical power, deconstruction and materials use, and energy efficiency assessment.

At least $5.7 billion in Recovery Act funds are expected to come to Colorado over the next two years.

AG Suthers, Secretary of State Buescher Warn of Haiti Donation Scams

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher are warning Coloradans to watch out for unregistered charities or other entities attempting to use the devastating earthquake in Haiti to cheat consumers.

“Coloradans have demonstrated a tremendous capacity for generosity during past disasters, but even the best intentioned donors should take precautions to ensure they are not victims of fraud,” Suthers said. “Scam artists often use disasters to take advantage of the generosity of those who simply want to help.”

“Undoubtedly, our hearts go out to the victims of this disaster,” Buescher said. “Coloradans can maximize their contributions and aid to this tragedy by only giving to established, legitimate charities or by checking the charity first on our Web site.”

Suthers and Buescher said Coloradans can take several simple steps to make sure that their charitable contributions are helping disaster victims and not lining the pockets of scam artists:

* Visit or the Colorado Secretary of State’s website to make sure a charity soliciting contributions is registered with the state.

* Seniors can contact AARP ElderWatch via the Colorado Consumer Line, 1-800-222-4444, for more information on charity fraud.

* Ask for the solicitor’s registration number and the registration number of the charity he or she is representing.

* If the charity is required to file the federal form 990 or 990-EZ with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, ask to see it.

* Ask your tax advisor or the IRS if your donation will be tax deductible. The fact that a charity has a tax identification number does not necessarily mean your contribution is tax-deductible.

* Ask the solicitor how much or what percentage of the donation will go to the charity.

* Be wary if the charity does not want to provide information about its programs and finances. Reputable charities will gladly provide the information requested.

* Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. Sometimes these sound-alike names are simply intended to confuse donors.

* Do not pay in cash. Donate with a check made payable to the charity.

* If solicited in person, ask to see identification for both the solicitor and the charity.

* Certain well-known charities such as the Red Cross will never solicit donations over the phone.

* Beware of unsolicited e-mail. There have already been reports of e-mail that purport to be solicitations from the Red Cross. The e-mails have links embedded in them that will take you to a fake Red Cross Web site. Further, such unsolicited e-mail may spread computer viruses. Do not respond to any e-mail soliciting donations from any organization. Instead, go directly to the organization’s Web site or call to make donations.

* If you believe you have been solicited by a fraudulent charity, please file a complaint with the Secretary of State or the Attorney General via

* If you feel uncomfortable simply, say no.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ritter Lauds Recovery Act Grants to Rural Businesses

Gov. Bill Ritter applauded today an Obama administration announcement today that $1.4 million in funds from the federal economic stimulus program will be used to build a new grocery store and business complex in Crestone, Saguache County, and keep a 21-year-old dance studio open in Durango.

The funds are part of a loan guarantee program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The Recovery Act is helping banks lend to rural businesses at a time when they need it the most,” said. “Our community banks are helping rural communities complete important projects like the new stores in Crestone that will create new jobs.”

Ritter was referring to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the formal name of the law enacted last March.

The two loans are among 130 announced by the USDA using $452 million in Recovery Act funds. They are part of the USDA Rural Development's Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program. By guaranteeing up to 80 percent of loans less than $5 million, the USDA helps banks agree to provide capital to rural businesses at a time when loans are extremely difficult to obtain.

At least $5.7 billion in Recovery Act funds are expected to come to Colorado over the next two years.

CDE Says State's Dropout Rate Falling

The state Department of Education says the percentage of Colorado high school students who drop out is falling.

The agency announced that nearly one percent more of the state's teenagers graduated high school in 2009 than did so in 2008.

“It is heartening to know schools in Colorado produced over a thousand more graduates last year than the year before. That is a reflection of the hard work by students, teachers and administrators and it is commendable,” education commissioner Dwight D. Jones said in a press release. “But we know we must redouble our efforts to ensure more students are graduating with a high school diploma that is their ticket to success in the workforce or in college.”

The state's high school graduation rate was 73.9 percent in 2008, 75 percent in 2007 and at 74.1 percent in 2006. It went up to 74.6 percent in 2009.

Senate Gives Quick Approval to First Bill of Session; Education Measure Supports State's Application for Federal Grant

The senate moved quickly today, on the first day of the 2010 legislative session, to enact a bill deemed critical to the state's effort to obtain federal dollars to support reform of the public school system.

SB 36, sponsored by freshman Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, gained preliminary approval on a 30-5 vote.

The bill would authorize efforts to connect information about student academic achievement in K-12 schools with Colorado's teacher preparation programs in an effort to determine which of those programs, and which of their methods, are working well.

"The goal for this is to help gather data for teacher and principal preparation program, to know how their graduates have done in their first three years," Johnston said. "We track their mobility, we track their placement, we track their retention."

"The idea is, once we do that, we can start to identify the really successful teacher and principal preparation programs," he continued.

The program will include every licensed teacher and principal in the state.

The bill is needed to support Colorado's effort to obtain money through the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" education reform program. The state's application is due next Tuesday and could result in an infusion of as much as several hundred million dollars.

"It will help us show us the areas where we are doing a good job," Johnston said. "It will give us some opportunities to improve by showing what the successful programs are doing."

The federal Department of Education has said it will give the most weight to aspects of state education programs that are focused on recruiting, training and retaining effective educators.

The bill must gain final approval in the Senate, and be approved by the House, before heading to Gov. Bill Ritter.

Ritter must sign it by Friday if it is to be cited as a state law in support of Colorado's "Race to the Top" application.

Senators defeated an amendment that would have required the cost of the program to be paid solely by private gifts, grants and donations and not with federal education appropriations to the state.

Colorado Springs' Apuan Recognizes Fallen Soldiers from Colorado on Opening Day

The opening day ceremonies at the state capitol took a somber turn today as Rep. Dennis Apuan, D-Colorado Springs, memorialized dozens of American warriors before a rapt chamber.

Apuan, who represents a district proximal to two Air Force bases, the Cheyenne Mountain facility, Fort Carson, and the Air Force Academy, asked for a moment of silence to honor the following members of the U.S. armed forces killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan between May and December of 2009:

Private Steven T. Drees
Specialist Gregory J. Missman
Sergeant Jason J. Fabrizi
Specialist Randy L.J. Neff Jr.
Sergeant Joshua J. Rimer
Private Patrick S. Fitzgibbon
Private First Class Richard K. Jones
Corporal Jonathan M. Walls
Sergeant Matthew L. Ingram
Private First Class Matthew Wildes
Sergeant Youvert Loney
Sergeant Randy M. Haney
First Lieutenant Tyler Edward Parten
Sergeant First Class Duane A. Thornsbury
Sergeant First Class David A Davis
Private First Class William Meredith
Staff Sergeant Justin T. Gallegos
Specialist Christopher T. Griffin
Sergeant Joshua M. Hardt
Sergeant Joshua J. Kirk
Specialist Stephan L. Mace
Staff Sergeant Vernon W. Martin
Sergeant Michael P. Scusa
Private First Class Kevin C. Thomson
Specialist Kevin Olsen Hill
Specialist Jesus O. Flores
Specialist Daniel C. Lawson
Staff Sergeant Glen H. Stivison Jr.
Private First Class Brandon M. Styer
Specialist Kimble A. Han
Specialist Eric N. Lembke
Private First Class Devin J. Michel
Sergeant Eduviges G. Wolf
Sergeant Jason A. Mcleod
Sergeant Kenneth R. Nichols
Sergeant Elijah J. Rao
Corporal Joshua A. Lengstorf
Specialist Brian R. Bowman
Private John P. Dion

Senate President Shaffer Echoes Request to Focus on Jobs

Senate president Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said in his opening day comments that the Senate would focus on job creation this year.

Shaffer, who took over as leader of the chamber last year when former Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, left for a job in the Obama administration, told colleagues that he would also expect a focus on solving the state's budget problems.

Those priorities echo similar remarks by House speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver.

The text of Shaffer's remarks follows:

"We start this decade with a promise borne of hope – hope this legislature will lead Colorado to a better future.

"We face no easy task. We expect no easy solutions. Our problems will not be solved by slogans, but with hard work and sacrifice.

"Each member of this body represents a unique region of our state. But more important than where we are from, is who we represent: The people of Colorado.

"We are here for school teachers and farmers, police officers and office workers, construction workers and miners. We are here for the mother who struggles to get her kids to school while getting dressed for work; for the father who barely gets by paying both the home mortgage and college tuition; for the senior citizen living on the state retirement pension wondering if it will still be there in five or ten years. We are here for every employer, worker and veteran, every parent, senior and child who call Colorado home.

"For their sake, we must put aside partisanship and embrace cooperation. This is not a time to enlarge the divide between Republican and Democrat. It is a time to provide for the prosperity of our people.

"Let our questions be honest, our debate be civil, and our proposals be genuine.

"Every day Colorado families and small businesses grapple with the effects of a global recession. Families sacrifice necessities and small business owners make painful cutbacks. Hard working employees see their benefits cut and many have lost their jobs.

"The gravity of our circumstance demands unity of purpose. This session is not about platitudes; it is about getting the job done.

"Starting today, we have two goals: create good jobs and balance our budget.

"Just as Franklin Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address, “Our greatest primary task is to put people to work.” Our legislation will focus on developing a 21st century workforce and creating jobs. Just a few of the ideas we will bring forward include:

* Job Retraining Accounts for employees to open accounts with tax benefits for education and retraining;
* Health care jobs to consolidate loan programs for health care professionals who serve rural communities;
* Renewable Energy Standard to increase investment in our New Energy Economy, and attract new jobs and investment capital to our state;
* And, Senator Penry and I will sponsor legislation to put PERA, the state’s retirement fund, on a stable financial path.

"As these bills and others move through the General Assembly, we will simultaneously work to balance our budget.

"Our budget will be lean and responsible. Declining state revenues require substantial cuts in the services the state provides; however, we will craft a budget that keeps our communities safe, our classrooms open, and our hospitals accessible.

"Undoubtedly, there will be differences of opinion about how to balance the budget. That is a hallmark of a strong democracy. Let us allow our differences to strengthen the policy that ultimately comes out of this body. Instead of becoming entrenched in partisan politics, let us listen and compromise and work together to produce a budget that serves the needs of Colorado.

"While our agenda will focus on creating jobs and balancing our budget, we will continue to make progress in areas such as education reform, health care affordability, and government efficiency.

"A better life for our children depends on their ability to compete in a global marketplace. A good job requires a good education. We will improve our measurement tools for student success and teacher performance. This will strengthen our schools and our competitiveness in Race-to-the-Top; a competition among states based on innovation and achievement in education; a race we intend to win.

"Coloradans need good health care. Last year we added health care coverage for 100,000 people. This year we will expand access to primary care for rural Coloradans. We will end gender discrimination in health care coverage and we will require greater transparency in prescription drug pricing.

"Finally, in recent years we have achieved greater accountability in government. Indeed, today is the first time in history the Senate is televised for all Coloradans to see. We will continue this trend as we work to build trust and confidence in the peoples’ government.

"Our task is to lead Colorado to a better tomorrow. Our agenda is to create jobs and balance our budget. We were sent here in difficult times to solve difficult problems. And solve them we will.

"We are Coloradans and we will stand firm. We refuse to allow our current troubles to steal our children’s future.

"We are Coloradans and we will endure. We will confront these challenges with the determination of our founders.

"We are Coloradans and we will lead the way. We will ask the tough questions, work the long hours and make the difficult decisions to serve the people of this great state.

"May we undertake these tasks drawing on the deep reserve of good will within us, the respect of our colleagues, and a sense of common purpose to serve well those who sent us here.

"God bless you all, and God bless the great state of Colorado."

Carroll Asks for Focus on Jobs

House speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, called on his colleagues to focus on the state's economy during the 2010 legislative session during his opening day remarks this morning.

Carroll, who is in his last term as a state representative, said the legislature should focus on developing the clean energy industry, strengthening job training programs, and making budget cuts that will not cause significant harm to the state's families and communities.

The text of the speech follows:

"I, too, sing America.

"When the Harlem Renaissance author Langston Hughes penned those words in 1925, America was booming.

"In Colorado, myths about fast fortunes made from silver and gold yielded to firmer economic opportunities – opportunities grounded in Colorado’s northern oil fields and southern steel mills. In Colorado’s fertile wheat fields out east and mineral deposits out west.

"Colorado’s once-desolate high plains became a critical part of America’s breadbasket. The Rocky Mountains – once barely traversable – became the nation’s backbone, and with the completion of Moffat Tunnel, a vital part of the state’s economy.

"Yet this state and this nation’s exuberance was obscured by harsher realities. America’s horizon, in fact, was littered with unseen challenges.

"Langston Hughes recognized that challenges awaited – that we were a long way from realizing liberty’s full potential. And yet, he saw promise peeking out:

"'Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table, for I, too, am America.'

"Well, tomorrow has become today, and while this nation remains imperfect, the 20th Century and the first decade of the 21st , produced undeniable achievements.

"In retrospect, the signposts toward progress appear clearly marked. But it’s a mistake to read history as an inevitable march forward. For each signpost precedes a bend in the road. And each bend foretells an immense challenge requiring difficult choices, clear leadership, and the will to act.

"It’s only ten years into this century, and America is already shuddering under the weight of an immense burden.

"Two wars, two recessions – one nearly resulting in economic collapse – disasters both natural and man-made. If anything, history’s long march, which rarely presents time to exhale, is speeding up.

"Today, though better than yesterday, again presents this nation and this state with new challenges.

"Challenges that require critical choices, clear leadership, and the will to act.

"The choices we make today – both within this room and without – matter to Colorado’s families. They matter because tomorrow is not yet written.

"But when tomorrow is written, history’s burden will be on us to show that in this building, in this room, in this year, we are standing up for Colorado’s families. We are fighting for small businesses and we are working hard to create new jobs. We are steering the state toward recovery.

"While Colorado’s economy has been hit hard by the recent recession, we’ve shown ourselves to be incredibly resilient.

"That’s no surprise: we’ve been here before. The Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859, promised droves of gold prospectors quick fortunes and bright futures. But this region’s true identity only took shape when the “free gold” – the gold that was easiest to mine and pan for – was exhausted.

"That’s when Coloradans were forced to innovate. That’s when the great ideas and new technologies that shaped our state and its dynamic economy sprung into being. That’s when our true character was forged.

"That’s what we do in Colorado: we hit a bump, and then we change. We diversify. We get along.

"Colorado is a state of unique communities. And while Denver and Durango, Westminster and Walsenburg on the surface don’t seem to share much, they do share the same strength of character and trailblazing attitude that make them thrive. We don’t wait around for progress. We don’t wait for Washington. Instead, we lead the way to recovery!

"Ranking in the top five states for business, and with an unemployment rate a full three points below the national average, Colorado has a record to be proud of.

"The lynchpin of our economy is small business. And nothing is doing more to drive the creation of small business than New Energy.

"Nearly 20,000 new green-collar jobs that can’t be outsourced and 1,800 new companies – almost all small businesses – are attributable to the innovation our leadership is providing.

"But we’re not settling for the status quo.

"This session will bring new legislation to increase our renewable energy standard – the amount of power utility companies are required to generate from “green” sources – from 20 to 30 percent by 2020.

"This bold initiative will make Colorado’s clean energy standard one of the most aggressive in the country, and stake our state’s claim as an undisputed leader in New Energy. I thank Governor Bill Ritter for leading this ambitious effort.

"This green initiative and others will continue to make it easier and cheaper for families to move to renewable energy. It will continue to bring jobs and firms like Vestas and ConocoPhillips to Colorado. And it will foster the small, homegrown businesses that are the bedrock of our state.

"Prosperity, however, is all about balance. It’s all about creating a diversified economy.

"Developing a sustainable market for clean, traditional sources of energy, like natural gas for use in Colorado will create jobs, drive down energy costs, and help break the vicious boom-and-bust cycles that hurt our local communities.

"That need for balance extends well beyond our energy sector. It means fostering an economy we can all participate in. That ambition drives us to create more job opportunities for doctors and nurses that want to deliver critical primary care to our rural and vulnerable populations.

"It pushes us to develop our burgeoning creative class by supporting industries like film and media, art and design. And it compels us to develop a workforce suited to our dynamic economy.

"Unfortunately, the high cost of higher education and barriers to job training and re-training often make it hard for Coloradans to jumpstart or advance their careers.

"That’s why we’re pushing legislation to help Coloradans develop skills to succeed and ease the way toward good, stable jobs. We’re expanding opportunity for Colorado adults who have been laid off or want to change industries to upgrade their skill-sets through job training; we’re making it easier for Colorado’s students to transition from two-year to four-year colleges; and we’re training our job force today for the high-tech, high-paying green-collar jobs of tomorrow.

"A strong economy begins in the classroom. And while our education system will be challenged this year, we remain committed to our kids.

"We are aggressively positioning our schools for Race to the Top, and moving away from CSAP toward a better, more comprehensive form of assessment.

"This downturn has focused our energy on job creation and economic recovery. On building a stronger Colorado with a more diversified and flexible economy.

"In that same spirit, the recent downturn has also demonstrated that building a stronger Colorado will require a smarter government.

"We’ve always had a small government. And in the past year we’ve made it even smaller. During the downturn we’ve already cut over a billion dollars from government spending, creating a leaner government with a balanced budget.

"We’ve cut in such a way that will allow us to focus on what matters most to people. I applaud the Governor and Joint Budget Committee for finding efficiencies while protecting core services as much as possible.

"But we're not done yet. This session we will continue to make tough choices and tough cuts to balance an additional $1.2 billion shortfall for the upcoming year.

"It is imperative, however, that as we continue to cut, we also take a systematic approach to remaking government, so it is not only leaner, but better and smarter too. So government programs are targeted and effective, and serve Coloradans well.

"This session, we will call on government agencies to be more accountable, to come up with clear goals for their programs, and plans for executing those goals.

"And we'll hold their feet to the fire through performance audits.

"Because if we don’t demand more accountability, the small government we do have won’t work.

"This state’s rich diversity and strong character compel more still from our state government.

"Our commitment to building a stronger Colorado requires more accountability.

"But it also means we have an obligation to stand up for people. It means making sure this state is an equitable one, where all people have a fair shot and get a fair shake. That Colorado is a state where people, not special interests, get their way.

"We will not tolerate special interests trampling on the many so the few can benefit. We won’t allow the same obstructionism, the same bickering and the same influences that corrupt Washington to corrupt Colorado.

"And we will not allow reckless partisan games to get in the way of you and your family’s prosperity. After all, times are tough enough already.

"That’s why we’re standing with Coloradans. We’re standing with Coloradans by advancing a sensible package of legislation that will keep politics clean; protect our neighborhoods; halt the cycle of debt perpetrated by reckless and dishonest lenders; stop medical fraud; and make life just a little easier for Colorado’s families.

"Members, as we prepare to begin the 2nd regular session of the 67th General Assembly let our thoughts this morning reflect a deep and abiding commitment to creating a better tomorrow. A better society.

"A society where our ideological differences do not outweigh our commitment to protecting our Rocky Mountain vistas; do not outweigh our commitment to conserving our fresh water and preserving our clean air; do not outweigh our commitment to promoting the common good for Colorado’s families.

"And let us pray our words and deeds do not become mere noise, because we have neglected the widowed, the poor, the orphaned, and those who seek justice under this dome.

"For they, too, sing Colorado.

"As we prepare to undertake this historic session, I’d to paraphrase the words of Thomas Paine:

“These are times that try men’s – and women’s – souls.

"Let us not shrink from our responsibility to this state and its people.

"Let us be bold and do what’s right for the people of Colorado.

"Thank you."

2010 Legislative Session Opens

Members of the 67th General Assembly gathered at the Capitol today to launch the 2010 session of the legislature.

House speaker Terrance Carroll, Senate president Brandon Shaffer, and the Republican minority leaders of both chambers focused on the state's budget problems in their traditional opening day speeches.

Gov. Bill Ritter will deliver his final "State of the State" address tomorrow. He is expected to lay out several priorities for the session and provide some information about the budget cuts needed to close Colorado's budget shortfall.